Preventive conservation in action - Prue Castles and Michelle Newton-Edwards
Preventive conservation in action by Prue Castles, (Senior Objects Conservator) and Michelle Newton-Edwards, (Textiles Conservator)
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Preventive conservation in action - Prue Castles and Michelle Newton-Edwards
• General Principles of Handling
• Specific Principles
• Discussion and viewing samples
“Minimise handling to minimise damage”
• Minimisation of irreversible damage is achieved through
safe handling practices, by striving to minimise
• To handle artefacts with an appreciation that the
accumulative pre-museum ‘lifetime’ makes artefacts
fragile and vulnerable
• Maintain in condition receipted: retain physical evidence,
authenticity; artefact integrity or SIGNIFICANCE
• Examine and improve current practices
• Develop ‘best practice guides’ for staff and clients –
integrated policy, protocols and procedures
General Principles of Handling
4 Key Activities:
Before starting plan and check the work area is:
• Clean, covered if required (Cellair™, Tyvek™)
• Free of obstacles
• Good, even lighting
• Collect all materials and equipment required
• Work on a table or with the artefact raised off the floor.
• Check database/records for any specific instructions or
requirements (Pest & Hazards)
• Remove ‘hazardous’ jewellery, swinging passes, items
which may fall out of upper pockets.
Handling – when and what gloves to wear
• Disposable nitrile/latex gloves - commonly used. Smooth
non-absorbent surface which is good for objects with
rough surfaces that may catch on cotton gloves. Provide
more grip than cotton gloves. Change frequently to avoid
transfer of dirt/grime to other objects.
• Cotton Gloves – Good for clean dry objects that are not
rough or very smooth. They can be washed and reused.
Will allow some moisture through.
• Clean dry hands are also an option – this may be the
most appropriate for very heavy objects, extremely
fragile or handling books.
Always wash hands before and after eating food while on breaks.
• Does the artefact need moving. In some instances it
might be safer to take a visitor to the object.
• Consider OHS issues in each handling situation i.e.
ergonomics, weight, dimensions, PPE
• Plan your move.
• Allow sufficient time.
• Thoroughly inspect artefact prior to any movement to
identify risks and hazards – safe holding points
• Place artefact on work surface to enable as much visual
inspection as possible, without placing stress on any part,
and minimise documentation handling
• Identify which support
method and material is
best for each type of
• Move supported artefacts
via trolley at all times
• Minimise handling by
using visual inspection as
much as possible
• Be aware of behaviour -
do not wave or pass
things over artefacts
• Never place equipment on artefact – measure at edges
only – do not TOUCH artefact
• Use pencils
• Cover artefact when not accessed with Tyvek (to minimise
light and dust exposure)
• Check pathways are clear, gather equipment needs for
the particular job and location – use trolley at all times to
move objects. Have assistance to open doors and spot
• Packing and support needs include physical and
environmental protection – see Specific Handling
• Range of standard materials include – Tyvek, Cellair,
Foamcor, corrugated board/trays, archival boxes, PE
tubs, acid-free tissue, Dacron cushions.
Specific Handling Requirements
Working with different materials types and size objects
• 3-D (timber, leather, metal)
• Glass, Stone Ceramic
• Paintings and Framed works
• Large Technology Objects
3-D (timber, leather, metal)
• Handle based on the most fragile component i.e.
handles, joinery, binding.
• Use nitrile gloves for metal artefacts and those with
rough or very smooth surfaces
• Position hands to support main structure. Use padding in
small tubs to support and cradle items.
Furniture : Medium items
• Check for loose or
• Lift by lowest possible
• Never drag as legs can
• Avoid handling the
• Avoid turning upside
• Determine the weight. Is
lifting equipment required
or an extra set of hands.
• Support and secure to
pallet or trolley for
Glass, Stone, Ceramic
• Handle based on the most
fragile component i.e. broken
• Avoid handling by original
handles as these may have
weakened through use over
• Wear nitrile gloves
• Evenly support the whole
structure by positioning hands
Oversized and heavy objects
• For oversized and heavy items – use handling
equipment if necessary
• Move and temporarily store in tubs supporting with
padding of Cellair, Ethafoam or Dacron cushions.
• Unusual shaped objects made need individually
Ethnographic (feathers, fur, fibre)
• Handle based on the most fragile component. Loose
fibres can be present, take care to minimise loss.
• Use gloves or clean hands as appropriate
• Support main structure – use handling boards, cradles
and tubs with padding, use hands to support all areas.
• Use a team for large sized objects (even if they aren’t
Paintings & Framed Items
• Use clean hands or nitrile gloves as appropriate
• Handle by the edges or frame only. Never lift by the top
• Use a team for oversized and heavy items, use the
handling blocks or supports if they are built in.
• Move unframed items on support boards or tray. Use a
trolley if moving longer distances.
• Carry by bottom edge
and side (using handling
blocks if present on
• ‘A’ frame or flat trolley
with painted surface out,
• Use art blocks to lift
artworks off the floor
when resting against the
Large Technology Objects
• Specific equipment and specialist skills (certifications)
can be required to transport and install/display. Develop
Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS).
• Consider designing supports that can be used for
storage/transport and display.
• Maintain a Hazard register – begin by surveying your
collection and check incoming artefacts for hazards.
• Check records for hazards prior to handling and either:
– Contact Conservator for advise
– Quarantine/isolate artefact – lidded PE tub
• Beware of:
– Biological (mould, frass)
– Chemical (paints, batteries, medicines, wet
– Radioactive (clocks, scientific instruments)
– Kinetic (sharps, weight)
• Clean hands/ latex gloves
• As far as possible examine the object by looking at it rather than
• Move and store:
– 3-D - overall support in archival box, lined and covered with
Tyvek. Pad out form using custom supports or acid free tissue
– 2-D - overall support in archival box, lined and covered with
– For light oversized flat textiles concertina/fold over ‘sausage’
forms, interleave layers with acid free tissue.
– For heavy oversized textiles such as tapestries or rugs use
covered Dacron supports
Archival board Polypropylene
Rolled storage for textiles
Cardboard roll covered with a barrier of Mylar (polyethylene film)
Roll covered with a barrier of archival tissue, excess tucked into ends
Textile object rolled flat, interleaved with archival tissue.
• Door to store: caring for your collection of hats and shoes
• Door to store: caring for your collection of paper and textiles